Hey, "Ryan's Hope" fans! The long-running ABC soap opera, dropped by both the Washington and Baltimore network affiliates, has popped up again on Channel 50! ...

Starting thispast Monday, "Ryan's Hope" has been seen at at noon. Meanwhile, the station and the network continue to discuss a one-year contract. Chances are good it will be signed but WFTY gets a one-month run with the soaper, regardless ...

Channel 50 would like to move the soap opera to later in the afternoon, like maybe 4 p.m., but ABC, which doesn't permit direct competition against its own programs in the market, saves that time period for a monthly "Afterschool Special." WFTY and ABC are still talking the problem over ...

With the schedule change, WFTY has dropped "Success in Life" between noon and 1 p.m., for "Ryan's Hope" and "20 Minute Workout" at 12:30 ...

WJLA canceled "Ryan's Hope" as of March 13 because of low ratings ...

(In case you missed it this week, "Ryan's Hope" fans, we've already learned how that awful Delia almost wrecked Maggie's marriage) ...

"Life in the Fat Lane," the NBC News Wednesday night special, weighed in with a hefty 15.7 national Nielsen rating (representing 13.7 million TV homes) and a 28 percent audience share ...

Connie Chung's examination of the American fascination with diets thus became the highest-rated NBC documentary in the past 10 years, or since the Jan. 5, 1977 three-hour special on violence in America ...

And from our Why Am I Not Surprised By This Thunderbolt? file: Joan Rivers' publicist says Joan has kept a diary of her short career hosting Fox Broadcasting's "Late Show" and has received "at least" two offers for her story ...

Rivers, meanwhile, has reportedly settled her three-year, $10 million contract with Fox at about 50 cents on the dollar ... and with no guarantees from either side she'll ever guest host on the late night program ...

Shoesies and All? A van, carrying two white tiger cubs who were scheduled to appear on yesterday's "The Morning Program," was stolen in mid-Manhattan when the driver and his assistant stopped for a cup of coffee on the way to the CBS studio...

The thief (or thieves) apparently didn't know that Vegas (a female) and Siegroy (a male) were in the back. Guest host George Segal and regular host Mariette Hartley, joined by the distraught trainers, repeated the stolen truck's description and license plate numbers throughout yesterday's broadcast ...

Late yesterday, CBS reported that the 10-month-old, 125-pound tigers had been found, unharmed, in the back of the van, which had been abandoned on a residential street near Fordham University in the South Bronx ...

At this writing, police have found no trace of the van thief -- or thieves (you don't suppose they finally found out what tiggers really like best?) ...

Still another local ratingzzzz item from the May sweeps, revealing that Channel 9's "Wheel of Fortune" led the 7:30-8 p.m. weeknight time slot with a 12.1 Nielsen rating and a 22 percent audience share (10.2/22 in the Arbitron book) ...

But the gap seems to be closing on what was once the dominant primetime access show in town ...

WTTG's "M*A*S*H" was second with an 11.5/21 (8.1/18), while WJLA's "Entertainment Tonight," up five share points from the February book, did an 11.2/21 (8.4/18) ...

WRC's "New Newlywed Game" averaged a 7.1/13 (5.6/12) and "Benson" on WDCA a 3.6/7 (2.6/6). Each rating point counts for 15,800 local TV homes ...

ABC executives will confront its angry affiliates next week out in Los Angeles in a three-day meeting starting Tuesday morning ...

The number one issue -- indeed, overshadowing all others -- will be the sad state of ABC's primetime schedule, which in the last year set a couple of all-time wrong-way ratings records (the May average was the lowest sweeps number recorded by any network since Nielsen started counting in 1954) ...

One sign of a change at ABC: stories in the trades that Aaron Spelling will let his exclusive contract with the network lapse after 18 years. Just a couple of years ago, Spelling's shows accounted for seven of the weekly 22 primetime hours on ABC (when the network was called Aaron's Broadcasting Co., in polite company, anyway). After Spelling disasters like "The Colbys" and the Lucille Ball sitcom last year, ABC has picked up no new Spelling shows and only the fading "Dynasty" and "Hotel" will represent him on the fall schedule ...

The Venice Venue The 13th world economic summit gets under way in Venice Monday and the three major networks will be there ...

But Dan Rather won't be. Instead, CBS News is sending Bill Plante, Terence Smith, Jacqueline Adams and Ray Brady, whose reports will be satellited back to "Evening News," coming out of New York. "Face the Nation," remaining in Washington, will feature a satellite interview with White House chief of staff Howard Baker from Venice and on Monday, "CBS Morning News'" Forrest Sawyer will chat up Treasury Secretary James Baker via satellite ...

The Big Story, of course, is the absence of Rather in Venice, especially after renewed rumors (strongly denied) that he may have lost clout at CBS News ...

As a matter of fact, a CBS spokesman yesterday wasn't sure Rather would be back on the air in New York on Monday night. And rival networks were whispering yesterday that Rather stormed out of a meeting after being told he wouldn't be sent to Venice and has been sulking out in the woods of the state of Washington ever since ... where he's been finishing a documentary about hundreds of Vietnam veterans living in the wilderness ...

CBS News president Howard Stringer yesterday called the rumors ridiculous but conceded the talk may force him to call Rather in from a planned vacation next week ...

Stringer said he had talked to Rather "this morning from half way up a mountain, where he expects to complete his documentary sometime this weekend"...

Originally, Stringer said, he had planned to give Dan all of next week off after tough trips to the Soviet Union (where he worked on June 24's "The Soviet Union Seven Days in May") -- and the trek around the Pacific Northwest ...

"I planned a vacation for him so he could come back fresh Monday (June 15), when we start our big promotion on the Soviet special. But now with all this stuff (the rival network rumors) I just might have to call him in, even though I don't want to be stampeded by those silly stories" ...

Stringer said that the two went to Great Britain at the end of last week after completing work in Moscow, dined together at Oxford and "lunched at the Compleat Angler. I've never seen Dan more cheerful. We had a discussion and we decided not to go to Venice for editorial reasons. The summit is really kind of a nonevent. The N.Y. Times says so, The Washington Post says so" ...

"I told Dan, 'If you want to go to Venice just to avoid the controversy if you don't show, go ahead' but he wanted to work on the Vietnam documentary and agreed that it's not that big a story in Venice ...

"Now," said Stringer, "I guess our next conversation is going to be about coming to work Monday night {June 8}" ...

Meanwhile, over at ABC News, "World News Tonight" anchor Peter Jennings will be broadcasting from St. Mark's Square starting Monday and Sam Donaldson will do the Sunday night edition from Venice, too. Financial correspondent Rodney Templeton Smith will anchor "World News This Morning" from Venice whence Sander Vanocur will also anchor the weekly ABC News "Business World" where he'll interview Howard Baker on the spot, as it were ...

Jennings will move on to London on Thursday and Friday as the British go to the polls ...

NBC is sending anchor Tom Brokaw, who will anchor "Nightly News" from the roof of the Hotel Bauer Grunwald. Bob Jamieson will anchor the business show, "Before Hours" from Venice Monday through Wednesday, while Henry Champ will contribute to the "Today" show daily from Italy. NBC hasn't made a firm decision on whether Brokaw stops in London for the elections ...

A one-hour documentary benefiting the American Amputee Foundation will air at 10 p.m. tomorrow night on CBN, the cable network ...